It is the vision of Aarhus University to be a research-intensive university that aspires to the highest international quality and excels in creating value through knowledge, new insights and collaboration, in addition to facilitating connections between Denmark and the world.
In the university’s newly adopted institutional strategy, international collaboration is a key element that permeates the central strategic commitments. The challenges facing society, and their solutions, transcend national borders and demand transnational and interdisciplinary collaboration.
To achieve its internationalisation goals, Aarhus University’s participation in the Erasmus programme is of vital importance. The Erasmus programme provides the framework and the funding that make it possible to carry out the strategy goals for both international cooperation and for global mobility.
The topics suited for international collaboration under the Erasmus programme are many and of great variety. As an example, Aarhus University is currently the lead in a strategic partnership (InnovEd4TS) that analyses and develops initiatives to promote the acquisition of transferable skills among students. The results of the strategic partnership will feed into the implementation of the institutional strategy in terms of initiatives to develop a future-proofed graduate competency profile and stimulate students’ interest in innovation and entrepreneurship.
In compliance with one of the main Erasmus programme principles, Aarhus University has a strong focus on climate and sustainability. Solving the challenges facing society, such as climate change, requires interdisciplinary and transnational collaboration and solutions. The university will facilitate and strengthen international research in this area and contribute to the global collaboration to realise the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. In 2020, Aarhus University adopted a climate strategy with a goal to become CO2 neutral in 2040, and in all parts of the university, working environmentally friendly is very high on the agenda.
The anticipated digitalisation of the Erasmus programme complies with the university’s ambition to support the targets set in relation to improved teaching, learning, research and dissemination through the application of a wide variety of digital solutions. The digital strategy of the university not only applies to teaching and research but also to the study and work environment as well as to digitalising the university’s administration.
Within the new programme period, and in line with its institutional strategy, Aarhus University will continue to maintain its extensive international collaboration with existing partners. The deep and substantial links that already exist within both research and education will form a strong foundation for future projects and common goals within internationalisation.
In addition to the well-established partnerships already in place, Aarhus University will continue to explore international collaboration possibilities and enter into new strategic partnerships in both research and education with universities abroad and with other relevant international actors. The policy objectives for both existing and new partnerships are not only increased internationalisation and global engagement but also adding quality to the research and education programmes they encompass.
Through its participation in the Erasmus Programme, Aarhus University will provide valuable learning opportunities abroad, as well as the necessary funding, for both its students and staff.
Promoting mobility and cross-border cooperation is a key point in the modernisation agenda of the EU. Likewise, it is the vision for the European Education Area that studying or working abroad becomes the norm. At Aarhus University, it is an established goal, and has been for several years, that degree programmes contain a mobility window to allow all students to benefit from an internship or a study experience abroad.
As a supplement to the traditional semester exchanges, Aarhus University also aims to explore new collaboration models such as blended and virtual mobility. In the light of the current COVID-19 situation and the necessity to limit travelling, also for the sake of the climate, this type of international cooperation has become increasingly more relevant.
As an employer, Aarhus University benefits from the new ideas and intercultural competencies that both its academic and administrative staff obtain from international mobility experiences. In its institutional strategy, Aarhus University has set a specific goal to increase the international mobility options for its PhD students to enhance their international networks and their opportunities for pursuing a successful career, either within academia or in other sectors.
The policy objectives of the participation in the Erasmus programme are not only linked to outbound mobility but equally to receiving mobile participants on campus. The new perspectives they bring to the classroom, or to the professional context they are part of, contribute to intercultural understanding, multidisciplinarity and globalisation.
Aarhus University aims to take part in key action 1 and key action 2.
It is the goal to continue to apply for funding to support mobility of students and staff for both programme and partner countries.
During the new programme, Aarhus University anticipates to enter more than 700 Erasmus agreements with institutions in the programme countries. More than 500 students are expected to undertake an Erasmus study or training period abroad every year. The Erasmus funding combined with the Danish Educational Grants makes this financially feasible also for students with fewer opportunities.
It is the intention to continue applying for funding to support the mobile students as well as administrative and academic staff. Aarhus University would like to see an increase in the number of staff members that make use of the Erasmus funding. This would be in line with the institutional strategic goal that international collaboration is crucial in order to solve global societal and political challenges.
Aarhus University has been successful in obtaining funding for cooperation with strategically important and carefully selected partners in partner countries. Providing diversity in exchange options in terms of geography, culture and language is a priority for Aarhus University, and the international dimension of key action 1 is a valuable contribution to making this possible. Under the new Erasmus programme, it is our intention to continue applying for funding to support collaboration with universities in relevant partner countries.
Later years’ strengthening of the internship part of key action 1 is in line with the university’s strategy to increase its graduates’ employability and to meet the needs of the private and public sectors. To be prepared for a volatile and global labour market, students must acquire internationally competitive knowledge and work experience.
In terms of implementing key action 1 projects in practice, Aarhus University has well-established processes in place as a result of many years’ experience with EU mobility programs. These processes ensure that funding is spent and allocated in compliance with the programme guidelines and that the necessary documentation is collected and filed.
The administration of key action 1 projects is coordinated by the central international office. The academic environments and the international units based in the faculties are involved in course approval and academic counselling of both in- and outbound students. The university has an up-to-date IT system in place to manage the mobilities, the grants and the inter-institutional agreements. The system is designed to streamline processes related to Erasmus administration and aligned with the Erasmus without Paper project.
Partnerships for Cooperation and exchanges of practices and Partnerships for Innovation
In terms of cooperation for innovation and exchange of good practices, Aarhus University has a long-standing tradition to turn to its international networks and alliances. Aarhus University takes active part in The Guild, the Coimbra Group and the Utrecht Network to name a few of its European strategic networks alliances.
One collaboration example is the project mentioned above where the aim is to embed transferable skills into disciplinary teaching and learning. In this strategic partnership, an analytical tool has been developed – a Transferable Skills Grid – that supports reflection on teaching and learning in transferable skills. Through the cooperation in the project, Aarhus University learns how to further develop the teaching and learning that take place in its degree programmes.
Engaging in a strategic partnership also creates networks across European universities, which will be a stepping-stone to further cooperation enhancing mobility and development of education. This supports the ambition to be a research-intensive university that aspires to the highest international quality and excels in creating value through knowledge, new insights and collaboration.
As mentioned above, the topics covered by the key action 2 partnerships - international collaboration, exchange of practices and innovation - are all key elements of the institutional strategy of Aarhus University.
Generating innovation in established public and private sector companies and start-ups through collaboration, both internally and with external partners, is part of the overall vision of Aarhus University. Participation in key action 2 partnerships for innovation would provide the necessary international setting and contribute to reaching this goal. In 2020, Aarhus University opened a new entrepreneurship hub providing a framework for students, researchers and entrepreneurs to come together and to turn the university’s knowledge into fuel for innovation through mutual inspiration and knowledge exchange.
Applications for key action 2 partnerships usually come to life as a bottom-up process where academic environments decide to lodge an application based on common interest originating from existing cooperation or active networking.
The management of the strategic partnerships is kept decentral and close to the stakeholders.
Partnerships for Excellence - European Universities
Aarhus University is part of the Circle U. network consisting of seven equally committed universities embracing European identity in all its diversity.
Circle U. applied in the second pilot call to become a European University Alliance. The goal is to make a significant increase in physical as well as virtual mobility. Aarhus University is the lead on creating an inclusive European University ecosystem consisting of policy framework, IT infra-structure, mutual recognition and mobility kick-start that will support seamless mobility across the partner universities. This is vital in the implementation of Aarhus University’s vision on ‘connecting Denmark and the world’.
The application has the full support of the senior management group of the university. The organisational changes and commitment required for success is acknowledged by leadership at all levels including the academic environments.
Partnerships for Excellence - Erasmus Mundus Joint Master Degrees
Aarhus University focusses on strengthening the international dimension of its degree programmes. An overall goal in the institutional strategy is the delivery of research-based degree programmes of the highest international quality. To meet this goal, the university must attract the most talented and motivated students both nationally and internationally. The institutional strategy also emphasises the importance that its graduates are equipped to compete on the global and volatile labour market. One of the means to achieve this is through the creation of optimum frameworks for exchange and the participation in joint educational programmes.
Aarhus University intends to keep its already existing close interaction with international elite universities regarding the content and planning of joint degree programmes both within the framework of Erasmus Mundus Joint Master Degrees other formalised joint educational activities.
Implementation of a joint degree programme in practice relies on the educational administrative support provided by the institution in general. Likewise, participation in joint degree programmes requires a strong commitment by the academic environments that are involved.
Participation in the Erasmus programme will have a significant impact on Aarhus University’s ability to meet its internationalisation goals in the years to come.
A successful outcome of the European University Alliance application will increase the international exposure of Aarhus University students and staff through a variety of activities. If funded, the alliance aims for 50% mobility target across the partner universities by 2025.
The alliance has set a goal to establish an innovative collaboration model linking education and research and connecting partner universities involving external stakeholders and increasing students’ engagement in innovation approaches to sustainability through challenge-based courses and programmes across universities and disciplines.
It is also the aim for the alliance, and the Circle U. network in general, to become a proactive agent in defining the future of the European Education Area.
In its institutional strategy, Aarhus University draws up only qualitative indicators to monitor the impact of individual staff and student mobility. Relevance and quality are the primary indicators for success. As mentioned before, Aarhus University strongly supports international mobility and believes in its significant impact on the learning environment and the valuable competencies it provides for the mobile participant.
A streamlined and digitalised administrative setup offers the necessary support to both in- and outbound mobile participants. All partnerships and projects are closely monitored through continuous assessment by the participants and by the academic and administrative units that are involved. In terms of partnerships, quality, mobility patterns and diversity are the overall indicators for success.
Involvement in key action 2 projects is driven by a bottom-up approach. The university leadership believes that sustainable projects with the greatest impact grow from the shared interest and research collaboration of existing networks and fora.
The benchmarking and development opportunities attached to participation in key action 2 projects will allow Aarhus University to strengthen its position as a leading global university. This position will be utilised to make an impact and to influence international policy development in research, innovation and education both in and outside Europe.